Now that the 2021 offseason has begun, following yet another year of disappointment, a fourth consecutive season with no postseason victories, it’s time to take stock of where the Pittsburgh Steelers stand. Specifically where Steelers players stand individually based on what we are seeing over the course of the offseason as it plays out. We will also be reviewing players based on their previous season and their prospects for the future.
A stock evaluation can take a couple of different approaches and I’ll try to make clear my reasonings. In some cases it will be based on more long-term trends. In other instances it will be a direct response to something that just happened. So we can see a player more than once over the course of the season as we move forward.
Player: OLB Alex Highsmith
Stock Value: Up
Reasoning: While not surprising, the Steelers made no major efforts to boost the outside linebacker position with respect to the starting lineup, all but sealing the inevitability of Alex Highsmith becoming a full-time starter this season. In the meantime, he continues to learn from T.J. Watt about how to excel as a professional.
The more I think about it, the more Alex Highsmith reminds me of T.J. Watt during the early portions of his career with regard to how he carries himself. Always confident in his abilities, but never cocky. Humble about the work that lies ahead, team-oriented, goal-oriented, driven by larger and less immediate motivations.
That doesn’t mean he’s going to become the same player on the field, but the Steelers don’t need Highsmith to be the next T.J. Watt (and if he were, they wouldn’t be able to pay him down the road anyway).
He just needs to be the best Alex Highsmith he can be, and everything he says certainly makes it sound as though he’s heading in that direction. Some players just say the right things because they know they’re the right things to be said. Others simply say them because they’re true. He seems to fall in the latter category.
The Steelers must believe that if you consider their approach to the position this offseason. Not only did they not re-sign Bud Dupree—which admittedly was a non-starter relative to the salary cap—they also let Olasunkanmi Adeniyi go with no effort as a restricted free agent.
The only reserve they retained from a year ago was Cassius Marsh. They drafted only one edge defender, Quincy Roche, waiting until the sixth round to do so. While many believe Roche was a ‘steal’, the fact remains that they sat through five rounds and six selections bypassing a position at which they lost a starter and a backup.
It’s Highsmith’s job to start at right outside linebacker this year. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about that. He’ll get his shot to pass or fail. If he succeeds, then it’s a major win for the Steelers, solving a problem before it becomes one. If not, the search for another starter begins anew.